We met when I was the sick one. I was seventeen and Molly was fourteen. I was bedridden from a rare blood disease that paralyzed me for several years, and she was dealing with blood infections and kidney problems and a slew of other crap that no one should ever have to experience but she did, time and time again.
We were members of an online community for kids with chronic illness. We just clicked, like old, familiar souls picking up where we left off. We talked on the phone and video chatted and she visited me often at home in Kansas. She never saw my hospital bed, or my feeding pump, or my paralysis. She just hopped into bed with me and we watched scary movies and talked about boys and made plans. She was my best friend. She was my sister.
Eleven years later, we changed places. I was healthy. I was walking. And she was very sick. It was my turn to go to her. Molls had so many close calls over the years. She was born with her illness. Going to the hospital was as normal to her as going to school is for most kids. Accessing her central line was second nature, preparing medication and IV pumps and dressing changes were routine. And as much as it was a part of her, it didn’t define her. She made sure of that. She survived comas and two transplants and countless infections and surgeries, one death-defying stunt after another. I took it for granted that she would be okay. Surviving was just what she did.
In May, her mom called. She told me that this time was going to be different, and I needed to get to Omaha to be with her as quickly as possible. She had always been honest with me. “I never want either of you girls to be blindsided,” she always said. I still didn’t believe it could really be the end. It was never the end. It was always supposed to be the end and then she came back to us and it wasn’t.
I hopped into bed with her and held her hand and rested my head on her shoulder and I talked about the time we jumped the curb in Santa Monica in the middle of the night because we wanted to go to the beach. We ended up straddling the median before finally freeing ourselves. An actual entrance to the beach was like five feet away, but we didn’t notice that until we had already become criminals. And the time we went sledding with the ATVs, and the time we visited the haunted hotel where Stephen King wrote The Shining, and the time we locked Spencer out of the house and started screaming when he knocked on the window because we were afraid the real Spencer had been kidnapped and the window knocker was a Spencer imposter/serial killer. And the time we ate pie and it was my first food in five years, and the time we went to that pony show and Phoebe was bigger than most of the ponies, and the time we crammed four dogs into the Focus and the red dog was definitely trying to get us to careen off a cliff and we were like WHY DO YOU WANT TO MURDER US ALL, RED DOG? And the time, and the time, and the time…
I didn’t see the tubes or the medicines or the pumps. Just her. Just my best friend in the whole world. I sang “Thank You for Being a Friend.” The Golden Girls is our show. We planned to grow into adorable old biddies, adopt dogs and horses and alpacas and open Lauren and Molls Ranch Farm.
A few days before we lost her, she married Corey. Her nurses and doctors transformed a conference room into a beautiful wedding chapel. Her doctor, Dr. Schaffer, gave her his grandmother’s pearls to wear on her wedding day. She looked beautiful. She looked happy. Everyone was so proud and so sad and so filled with love. I was her maid of honor. I told her that she would be mine when Steven and I get married, and she will, still. I know she will be there.
The morning she died, her friend, Nona, and I wandered around the hospital in a daze. I felt an overwhelming desire to talk to Dr. Shaffer and Molly’s nurses so we went up to the 5th floor. She spent the last seven months of her life on the 5th floor solid organ transplant unit and they loved her deeply. We hugged everyone and said goodbye. They paged Dr. Shaffer and he came right away. I asked him if he believed in “something after,” if he thought there was more to us than bones and brains and organs. He confidentially replied, “Of course! Yes. We are all atoms and molecules and energy. Nothing ever dies. We go back to where we came from and we are a part of everything.” According to a man of science who relies on proof and test results and measurable evidence to make informed life or death decisions on a daily basis, we’re all recycled and our energy echoes forever. I’ll take it.
Molly was about sharing, recycling, living and loving and taking one and passing it down. She gave radio and television interviews from her hospital room to help promote organ donation awareness up until the very end. Back in 2006 and 2007, she received a small bowel from a deceased donor, and her mom gave her a kidney. These gifts, as Molly always referred to them, bought her precious time. Instead of dying at seventeen, she moved to Los Angeles and lived close to me; went to school; rescued her beloved Great Dane, Lyla; saved a dog named Honey and helped find her a happy home; she stood up for me; she met her future husband; she went to Paris; she worked at a vet’s office; she made friends; she walked dogs; she had some close calls, survived them all; watched her mom marry her step dad; she said goodbye to our friend and we cried and missed him but felt he would always be with us; she made funny videos with her brother; rode her horse, Bali; participated in Donate Life events; helped me eat a stranger’s cheesecake at a weird nightclub in Pacific Palisades that reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut, without all the naked people; indoor skydived (dove?) with Corey; dropped her iPhone in a crosswalk and watched a large, ill-timed bus run a yellow light and smash it into a million pieces and she went to parties and laughed a lot and flipped off shitty drivers and she loved her Corgi, Tegan, and her cat, Schmidt, and my service dog, (her God dog,) Phoebe, and we ate at Grub and Cha Cha Chicken and Urth and we were silly we laughed about things that only we understand and she got married and she lived really, really, really well. She packed ten lifetimes into those years. She wanted everyone to have that chance.
We used to say we were old souls meant for a different time. The 1920’s and 30’s, we thought, would suit us well, when people were a bit kinder and calmer and men held doors for ladies and ladies had cute Flappery accents and used words like “gams.” I think, mostly, we appreciated good manners. We sort of lived like twenty-something Golden Girls, spending Friday nights eating food and watching movies and taking a crap ton of medications and really appreciating a good night’s rest. We called ourselves “The Packard Hags.” We were going to own a Packard automobile one day, we said, and we would drive around town in big fancy hats and try out all different kinds of accents. After she passed away, I looked up the meaning of the Packard symbol. The hood emblem depicts a woman called the Goddess of Speed, flying, reaching, moving forward, quickly and with purpose.
“Tonight, I hope all of you have a wonderful time, whether you go out or just chill at home. It's our chance to start all new. See big things happen and say, "2013 was a ______ year? Wasn't it!” Let's make that _____ positive. Do things for others you wouldn't normally do, spend more time people you may not stop to think of much, stop to be in the moment, walk in other people's shoes for a second or two! Hopefully if people can shift their attitudes and be grateful and happy about just being healthy and being here, then more people awaiting transplants like me will get them and that will give more opportunity to make even MORE happy and grateful for what they got. Love you all so much! Xo”
- Molly, 12/31/12